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- Where the Complaints Officer determines that the complaint does not meet the criteria detailed in this Guidance Manual, the Complaints Officer will inform the Complainant in writing, within 5 working days of making the decision/determination, that the complaint will not be investigated and the reasons for it.
- Where the complaint will be investigated, the Complaints Officer must endeavour to investigate and conclude the complaint within 30 working days of it being acknowledged.
- If the investigation cannot be investigated and concluded within 30 working days, the Complaint Officer must communicate this to the Complainant and the relevant service/staff member within 30 working days of acknowledging the complaint and give an indication of the time it will take to complete the investigation.
- The Complaint Officer must update the Complainant and the relevant staff/ service member every 20 working days.
- The Complaint Officer must endeavour to investigate complaints within 30 working days. However, where the 30 working days timeframe cannot be met despite every best effort, Complaint Officer must endeavour to conclude the investigation of the complaint within 6 months of the receipt of the complaint. If this timeframe cannot be met, the Complaint Officer must inform the Complainant that the investigation is taking longer than 6 months, give an explanation why and outline the options open to the Complainant.
- He/She should encourage the Complainant to stay with the local HSE complaints management process while informing them that they may seek a review of their complaint by the Ombudsman/ Ombudsman for Children.
Timeframes for obtaining further information from the Complainant
- If the Complaint Officer requires further information from the Complainant to enable them to investigate their complaint, they must write to the Complainant requesting this information and ask that a response is provided within 10 working days.
- Where the required information is not received within this time period, the Complaint Officer may extend the time limit for receipt of the information by a further 10 working days.
- The Complainant must be informed that if he/she fails to comply with this request for further information, then their complaint may be invalidated.
Timeframes for eliciting responses from staff member(s)
- Where there is a response required from staff members in relation to issues raised by the complaint, the Complaint Officer may inform the relevant Head of Service and the staff members of the issues to which a response is required. The Service Manager/Head of Service is then responsible for ensuring the staff member provides a response to the issues raised.
- Where the Complaint Officer is of the opinion that the matter does not warrant the involvement of the Service Manager/Head of Discipline, he/she may contact the staff member directly.
- The Complaint Officer must record the date of the notification.
- The relevant staff member(s) is required to respond within 10 working days of receiving notice of the complaint.
Timeframes for eliciting responses from persons no longer employed by the HSE
- When a complaint involves a staff member who is no longer employed by the service, the Complaint Officer must endeavour to contact the relevant ex-staff member immediately, to inform them of the complaint and to invite a response from that staff member to the issues raised within the timeframes as outlined above.
- Every effort is to be made to comply with the timeframes as outlined above. However, there may be special circumstances where timeframes cannot be met due to the unavailability of the ex-staff member or the current location of the ex- staff member. These issues must be brought to the attention of the Complainant and the Complainant must be assured that the management of the complaint is progressing as quickly as possible.
- If, after all reasonable efforts, the Complaint Officer is unable to obtain a response from any persons no longer employed by the HSE, the Complaint Officer must endeavour to investigate the complaint to the best of his/her ability with the information available to him/her.
Time limits for making a complaint
The Complaint Officer must determine if the complaint meets the timeframes as set out in Section 47, Part 9 of the Health Act 2004 which requires that complaint must be made within 12 months:
- of the date of the action giving rise to the complaint; or
- of the Complainant becoming aware of the action giving rise to the complaint.
A Complaint Officer may extend the time limit for making a complaint if in the opinion of the Complaint Officer special circumstances make it appropriate to do so. These special circumstances include but are not exclusive to the following:
- if the Complainant is ill or bereaved;
- if the new relevant, significant and verifiable information relating to the action becomes available to the Complainant;
- if it is considered in the public interest to investigate the complaint;
- if the complaint concerns an issue of such seriousness that it cannot be ignored;
- diminished capacity of the Service User at the time of the experience e.g. mental health, critical/ long-term illness;
- where extensive support was required to make the complaint and this took longer than 12 months; or
- if the Complainant was living abroad and unable to make the complaint within the 12 month timeframe.
Where reasons other than the above are provided by the Complainant for making a complaint after the 12 month period,
the Complaints Officer will make a decision as to whether or not to extend the timeframe.
Decision to extend/not extend the 12 month timeframe
Where a decision has been made to either extend or not to extend the 12 month timeframe, the Complaints Officer will
inform the Complainant within 5 working days of the decision having being made.
Where the decision has been made by the Complaints Officer not to extend the 12 month timeframe, the Complainant
may request a review of this decision through the relevant Complaints Manager.